Posts Tagged Arabian Peninsula

Algeria’s Belhadj slams boycott of Qatar

June 15, 2017

Co-founder of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front, Sheikh Ali Belhadj, has criticized the siege imposed by a number of Gulf and Arab countries on Qatar.

In an interview with Quds Press, Belhadj strongly criticized the involvement of Islamic institutions and using them to achieve political purposes against the State of Qatar.

“The involvement of the Muslim World League, with the aim of gaining legitimacy for the siege against Qatar, is an insult to this institution and to the teachings of Islam which refuse such behavior in the holy month of Ramadan,” he said.

The Muslim World League should have remained neutral towards this dispute and sought to heal the rift instead of involving itself in such a way.

Belhadj pointed out that Qatar is not the target of the blockade, but the aim is to strike every Arab or Islamic country that wants to support the oppressed or the Palestinian cause.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170615-algerias-belhadj-slams-boycott-of-qatar/.

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Saudi king gives Pakistan’s prime minister an ultimatum over Qatar

June 15, 2017

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has given Pakistan’s prime minister an ultimatum over Qatar. In an attempt to force Nawaz Sharif to take sides, the monarch jibed, “Are you with us or with Qatar?” the Express Tribune has reported.

The king posed the question during a meeting between the two leaders in Jeddah on Monday as part of the effort to find a diplomatic solution to the Qatar crisis. “Pakistan has told Saudi Arabia it will not take sides in the brewing diplomatic crisis in the Middle East after Riyadh asked Islamabad ‘are you with us or with Qatar’,” the newspaper pointed out.

Pakistan has been treading a careful path since Saudi and other Gulf countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. However, the Saudi government wants Pakistan to side with the kingdom.

Citing a senior government official, who was briefed on the talks at the monarch’s palace in Jeddah, the Express Tribune said that Pakistan would not take sides in any event that would create divisions within the Muslim world. “Nevertheless, in order to placate Saudi Arabia, Pakistan offered to use its influence over Qatar to defuse the situation. For this purpose, the prime minister will undertake visits to Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey,” the newspaper added.

Sharif traveled to Jeddah accompanied by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior officials to discuss the emerging situation in the Gulf. It is thought that Prime Minister Sharif’s mediation visit to Saudi did not achieve any immediate breakthrough.

According to an official statement, Sharif met King Salman in Jeddah and urged an early resolution of the impasse in Gulf in the best interest of all Muslims.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170615-saudi-king-gives-pakistans-prime-minister-an-ultimatum-over-qatar/.

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Jordan plunges into economic crisis following Qatar blockade

June 14, 2017

Jordan’s economy has incurred losses worth $2 million since a closure of the Saudi land borders last week against the Jordanian exports heading to Qatar as a result of the Gulf diplomatic rift.

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and began an economic blockade against the Gulf state. Jordan later joined the move by announcing a reduction in diplomatic representation with Qatar.

According to sources at Jordan’s Exporters and Producers Association for Fruits and Vegetables, Jordanian traders who have previously signed exporting contracts with Qatar, started exporting their products by air.

Jordanian shipments’ volume to the Gulf state has also dropped to 90 tons per day, down from 600 tons per day before the blockade.

According to Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia has prevented the entry of 85 Jordanian trucks loaded with vegetables and fruits, and over 10 trucks which were loaded with livestock heading to Qatar, following the rift.

Qatar has begun pursuing alternative routes and agreeing on new deals with other countries to counter the blockade imposed by most of its neighboring Arab states. Turkey was ready to help resolve the dispute, according to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, while Iranian officials have offered to send food to Qatar by sea.

Moreover the Danish company, A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, which owns the world’s biggest container line, has worked to bypass the transport ban imposed on Qatar by using alternative routes. Last Friday, it announced that it would begin container shipments to Qatar via Oman, avoiding trade restrictions imposed on the Gulf state by Arab countries.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170614-jordan-plunges-into-economic-crisis-following-qatar-blockade/.

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Qatari forces in anti-Houthi coalition return to Doha

07.06.2017

The move came days after the coalition terminated Qatar’s membership in the anti-Houthi bloc, which has been launching an air campaign against Houthi rebels, who overran Sanaa and other Yemeni provinces in 2014.

According to QNA, top army brass had welcomed the troops on Tuesday.

On Monday, five Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Yemen – cut ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.

Qatar denied the accusations, saying the move to cut ties with it was “unjustified” and aimed to impose guardianship on the Gulf country.

The new escalation came two weeks after the website of Qatar’s official news agency was allegedly hacked by unknown individuals who reportedly published statements falsely attributed to its emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani.

The incident triggered a diplomatic row between Qatar and its neighbors, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: http://aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/qatari-forces-in-anti-houthi-coalition-return-to-doha/836255.

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Diplomatic crisis grows in Gulf

2017-06-09

DUBAI – The diplomatic crisis surrounding the Gulf escalated further Friday after Saudi Arabia and its allies placed a number of Qataris and Doha-based organisations on a “terror list”.

As many as 18 individuals were named, including members of Qatar’s royal family and a former minister.

Also named were Doha-based Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Qatari-funded charities.

The list was published jointly by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — which accuse Qatar of supporting Islamist extremist groups and have cut ties with Doha.

“This list is connected to Qatar and serves suspicious agendas in an indication of the duality of Qatar policies,” said the statement.

It shows that Qatar “announces fighting terrorism on one hand and finances and supports and hosts different terrorist organisations on the other hand”.

In all, 59 people and entities were listed.

It was released hours after Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said Doha would not “surrender” and rejected any interference in its foreign policy.

Qatar said the blacklist had no basis in reality.

“The recent joint statement issued by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE regarding a ‘terror finance watch list’ once again reinforces baseless allegations that hold no foundation in fact,” a government statement read.

“Our position on countering terrorism is stronger than many of the signatories of the joint statement — a fact that has been conveniently ignored by the authors.”

It added: “We lead the region in attacking the roots of terrorism.”

– Spiraling crisis –

Friday’s spat is unlikely to ease regional tensions in a spiraling political crisis which also threatens to involve the US, Russia, Europe and other major players such as Turkey and Iran.

Turkey’s parliament has approved deploying troops to a base in Qatar and Iran has offered to send food to Doha.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain led a string of countries that cut ties with Qatar over what they say is the emirate’s financing of extremist groups and its ties to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional arch-rival.

They also banned Qatar Airways from their airspace and closed Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia, moves Doha’s foreign minister termed a “blockade”.

On Friday, Sheikh Mohammed held surprise talks in Germany with his counterpart Sigmar Gabriel.

In a press conference, he claimed the actions by the Gulf states were “a clear breach of international law”.

Denouncing the blacklist, he added: “There is a continuous escalation from these countries… but our strategic options are still diplomacy and dialogue.”

Gabriel stressed that “this is the hour of diplomacy”.

So far, European countries have largely stayed on the sidelines in the dispute.

Sheikh Mohammed is expected in Moscow Saturday, and officials said Friday he spoke with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by telephone.

– Blacklist steps up pressure –

The blacklist is the latest allegation by Saudi Arabia and its allies against Qatar since the crisis erupted late last month.

The Arab states have also ordered Qataris out within 14 days.

Qatar’s national human rights committee said families had been split and hundreds of people affected.

The feud has raised fears of wider instability in an already volatile region that is a crucial global energy supplier and home to several Western military bases.

Kuwait — which unlike most of its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members has not cut ties with Qatar — has led mediation efforts.

US President Donald Trump, who had initially backed the measures against Qatar in a tweet, called Sheik Tamim on Wednesday with an offer “to help the parties resolve their differences”.

Qatar hosts the Al-Udeid military base, the largest US airbase in the Middle East that is central to the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Questions have also been raised over whether Qatar should retain the right to host the 2022 football World Cup and over its economic ability to sustain the crisis.

Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of Liquid Natural Gas, but industry experts say shipowners are seeking clarity on the UAE’s ban on Qatari-linked vessels calling at its ports.

“The ban will certainly have an impact on cargo contracts… where Qatar is a source or destination,” said Singapore-based shipping lawyer K Murali Pany.

– Forged own policies –

Analysts say the crisis is partly an extension of a 2014 dispute, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain temporarily recalled their ambassadors over Qatari support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

A top Gulf official, on condition of anonymity, told AFP that a major concern was the influence of Sheikh Tamim’s father Sheikh Hamad, who had allowed the Taliban to open an office in Doha and helped arm Syrian rebels before abdicating in 2013.

Doha has for years forged its own alliances in the region, often diverging from GCC policies and taking in leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Hamas and members of the Afghan Taliban.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83469.

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US approves sale of $2 billion in missiles to UAE: Pentagon

Washington (AFP)

May 11, 2017

The US State Department has approved the possible sale of 160 missiles to the United Arab Emirates for an estimated $2.0 billion, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The UAE government has requested the possible sale of 60 Patriot missiles with canisters and 100 Patriot guidance enhanced missiles, among other military equipment, according to a Department of Defense statement.

“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of an important ally which has been, and continues to be, a force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,” it said.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/US_approves_sale_of_2_billion_in_missiles_to_UAE_Pentagon_999.html.

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Trump to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, Vatican, meet with pope

May 04, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Thursday his first foreign trip as president will feature stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican, where he will meet with Pope Francis, an ambitious foray onto the world stage that will include meetings with NATO and a summit in Italy.

Senior administration officials said Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first stop to show his commitment to improving U.S. relations with the Muslim world. Trump will meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and other leaders where they are expected to discuss efforts to defeat terrorism and discredit radical ideologies, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe internal planning.

Trump, joining religious leaders in the Rose Garden on Thursday, said his first foreign trip would “begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders all across the Muslim world.” “Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam and it is there that we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries,” Trump said.

The weeklong trip will mark the president’s first trip abroad and come about six weeks after the U.S. launched Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian air base in the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack in the war-ravaged country.

The trip will inject Trump into the thorny quest for Middle East peace, a prospect that has proven elusive for Trump’s predecessors. The announcement follows Trump’s meeting on Wednesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his optimistic pledge to mediate peace efforts between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Trump has sought to forge strong ties with Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of his presidency in hopes of facilitating peace. The visit to Israel will reinforce that alliance, officials said.

“Our task is not to dictate to others how to live but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the war-ravaged Middle East,” Trump said.

The Palestinians want to create a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Abbas noted that demand when he joined Trump at the White House.

But Netanyahu has rejected the 1967 frontier as a baseline for border talks and ruled out partitioning Jerusalem where Palestinians hope to establish a capital. Netanyahu’s government has expanded settlements despite U.S. efforts to curb the construction.

The White House had said previously that Trump would travel to Belgium for the NATO meeting and Italy for the G7 summit before Memorial Day. The president previously called NATO “obsolete” but has since recanted after listening to European leaders make the case for the military alliance.

Trump will be making his first overseas trip late into the start of his presidency compared to his predecessors. Former President Barack Obama visited nine countries by late April 2009, his first three months in office, meeting with allies such as Canada, Britain and Germany. The last first-term president to wait until May to venture abroad was Jimmy Carter in 1977.

His visit will also give him the opportunity to connect with Roman Catholics with his visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The White House said the president met privately Thursday with Roman Catholic cardinals.

Trump and Francis couldn’t be more different in their approaches to some of the pressing issues of the day, with immigration and climate change topping the list. Francis has spoken of the need for bridges between nations, not the walls that Trump has called for. He has called for an end to the use of fossil fuels, while Trump has pledged to cancel payments to U.N. climate change programs and pull out of the Paris climate accord.

But both share a populist appeal and speak with a down-to-earth simplicity that has endeared them to their bases of supporters. And both share a common concern about the plight of Christians in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic militants.

Francis recently called for the U.S. and North Korea to step away from the brink and use negotiations and diplomacy to diffuse tensions on the Korean peninsula — an issue that is likely to feature in any Vatican audience.

During the campaign, when asked about Trump’s border wall with Mexico, Francis famously said anyone who wants to build a wall is “not Christian.” Trump shot back that it was “disgraceful” for a religious leader to question someone’s faith.

Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Vatican City contributed to this report.

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